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October 13, 2010

David Porter, "Historicizing the History of Chinese Literature," Institute for the Humanities Brown Bag Lecture, October 26, 2010

Institute for the Humanities Brown Bag Lecture
Noon, Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Room 2022
202 South Thayer

David Porter

Historicizing the History of Chinese Literature

China played a leading role in Goethe's conceptualization of world literature, but has hovered uncomfortably on the margins ever since. The conundrum posed by China in conceptions of world literature arguably stems from three important (and inter-related) problematics. First, comparative frameworks juxtaposing "Chinese" with "Western" literatures have often fallen into the ruts of predictably essentializing East/West binaries. Second, the sinocentrism of much traditional Chinese literary study has proven as resistant to capaciously comparative perspectives as has the more familiar Eurocentrism of the Euro-American academy. And third, the sheer vastness of the Chinese literary landscape presents difficulties for any kind of "representative," let alone "democratic" process of selection for a canon (or even a textbook anthology) of World Literature.

In an attempt to better grasp the history of some of these dynamics, this paper will investigate how "Chinese literature" has been constructed as a canon, a discipline, or a foil for Western audiences since the time of the first Jesuit missions. It will offer a snapshot of several key stages in the emergence of the category of Chinese literature in English-speaking countries, with special attention to the ways in which the construction of this category was shaped by contemporary conceptions of both British/U.S. national literatures and "world literature."

David Porter is associate professor of English and comparative literature and a faculty associate at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. His research interests include travel literature, aesthetics, eighteenth-century cultural history, China and the West, and Internet culture. His publications include Ideographia: The Chinese Cipher in Early Modern Europe.

Free and open to the public

www.lsa.umich.edu/humin; 734-936-3518; humin@umich.edu

Posted by zzhu at October 13, 2010 03:14 PM